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RAN 06/16

8 March 2016 – PEN International condemns the ongoing harassment faced by blogger Tran Minh Nhat and his family ever since his release in August 2015. Initially arrested in August 2011, Tran was sentenced to four years in prison and three years in probationary detention for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Criminal Code in connection with his writings for a website linked to the Catholic Church. He was released on 28 August 2015 upon completion of his prison sentence. Since then, Tran and his family have faced frequent and varying acts of harassment and intimidation at the hands of the authorities in Lam Ha district, Lam Dong Province and other unidentified assailants. PEN International calls on the Vietnamese authorities to end the harassment of Tran Minh Nhat and his family and to ensure their safety. PEN also calls on the authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of harassment reported by Tran Minh Nhat, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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Please send appeals:

  • Calling on the Vietnamese authorities to end the harassment, intimidation and other forms of attack against Tran Minh Nhat and his family;
  • Urging the Vietnamese authorities to ensure the safety of Tran Minh Nhat and his family;
  • Calling on the Vietnamese authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation in to the acts of harassment reported by Tran Minh Nhat and his family and to bring the perpetrators to justice;
  • Calling on the Vietnamese authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all writers and journalists held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Appeals to:

His Excellency Truong Tan Sang
President of the Socialist Republicof Viet Nam
Hung Vuong street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam

Mr Nguyen Tan Dung
Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam
Fax: +84 80 44130/ +84 80 44940

Mr Pham Binh Minh
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam steet
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam
Fax: +844 3823 1872
Email: bc.mfa@mofa.gov.vn

Please send copies of your appeals to Vietnamese diplomatic representatives in your country. For some Vietnamese embassies in the world:

http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-of/Vietnam

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 8 April 2016***

Background:

Tran Minh Nhat, a blogger, human rights activist and contributor to Viet Nam Redemptorist News – an independent news outlet reporting on social, religious and human rights issues associated with the Catholic Church – is known for his peaceful commitment to the promotion and protection of social and cultural rights.

Between August and December 2011, some 17 activists, bloggers and citizen journalists, most of them members of the Catholic organisation Congregation for the Holy Redeemer (known as Redemptorists), were arrested by the Vietnamese authorities after attending a training course in Bangkok held by the banned Viet Tan political party. Tran, arrested in August 2011, was among them. The criminal activities the group are said to have engaged in include writing commentaries that are critical of the Government and distributing them on the internet, as well as participating in and encouraging peaceful protest. Tran was sentenced to four years in prison and three years in probationary detention for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Criminal Code, thought to be connected to his contributions to the Viet Nam Redemptorist News. In late 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) ruled that the arrest and detention of Tran and 15 other citizen journalists was arbitrary and in violation of international law. WGAD also called for the Vietnamese authorities to release Tran and his colleagues and to provide them with compensation.

Since his release in August 2015, Tran has reportedly been placed under constant police surveillance, thought to be part of his probationary detention. In addition, reports indicate that Tran and his family have faced frequent and varying acts of harassment and intimidation at the hands of police in Lam Ha district, Lam Dong Province.

In November 2015, Tran was reportedly physically attacked by local police while detained in a police station, after he returned home from medical checks in Ho Chi Minh City. Tran was accused of violating his probation; however, he argues that he had reported that he would be travelling to the city for medical treatment to the authorities. The authorities reportedly accused him of communicating with a priest associated with the Redemptorist movement in Vietnam, believed to be “a man against the state”, and of receiving money to carry out subversive activities.

The harassment of Tran and his family appears to have escalated in 2016; masked assailants have thrown stones at his family’s home on five separate occasions in February alone. In addition, Tran reports that the family’s crops have been sprayed with pesticides causing crops to die and irrigation equipment has been damaged.  Furthermore, two of Tran’s brothers have also faced threats and harassment; on 13 February, Lam Ha police officers reportedly threatened to burn down his elder brother’s home. His family are particularly concerned at such threats in light of a fire next to Tran’s family home in the early hours of 10 February 2016 when a pile of dried coffee plants caught fire. The fire was so large that it took eight people three hours to contain it. Although the reasons for the fire are not known to PEN, Tran’s family are concerned that the pile may have been set alight intentionally.

Most recently, on 22 February 2016, Tran Minh Nhat suffered a head injury after an assailant in plainclothes – who Tran believes to belong to the local Lam Ha police – threw stones at him. PEN is concerned by reports that he was prevented from seeking further medical assistance at a hospital after he was confronted on the road by the same group of assailants.

For further information please contact Emma Wadsworth-Jones at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: emma.wadsworth-jones@pen-international.org

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